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NASA Trio Take Flight in Support of Disability Inclusion in Space

Three NASA employees participated in a zero-gravity flight with the Zero Gravity Corporation sponsored by AstroAccess, a project dedicated to promoting disability inclusion in space exploration. As part of the project’s second cohort of disabled ambassadors, NASA employees Denna Lambert, Dr. K. Renee Horton, and Victoria Garcia took flight on an AA2 plane on Dec. 15, from Houston.

During the flight, the trio – along with 13 other ambassadors from a variety of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) occupations and aerospace organizations – conducted demonstrations to test designs that seek to advance disability inclusion in space, such as tactile graphics to help both blind and sighted crew members, and a system for hearing in loud spaces that could also support hard of hearing crew members. These demonstrations build on research established with the project’s inaugural flight in 2021.

NASA employees Denna Lambert, Victoria Garcia and Dr. K. Renee Horton

Denna Lambert works as the Inclusive Innovation Lead for Early Stage Innovations and Partnerships in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. She leads efforts to engage, develop, invest, and advance innovators from diverse communities that will ultimately support NASA’s mission in aerospace technology.

“Much like how we at NASA mature and nurture technological advances, this AstroAccess flight has a similar goal of advancing inclusion in human spaceflight,” said Lambert. “AstroAccess ambassadors are taking methodical and strategic steps to answer questions, adapt to barriers, and demonstrate the strength and perseverance of disabled explorers. And along the way, we are developing solutions to improve life for individuals with disabilities here on Earth.”

Dr. K. Renee Horton serves as the airworthiness deputy for the Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstrator Project at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. Dr. Horton is a hard of hearing advocate for diversity and inclusion in STEM.

“I believe that if you aren’t invited to the table, you build your own,” said Horton. “AstroAccess is showing that everyone is welcome to space, and this is our way of prepping future generations to head to space with others.”

Victoria Garcia currently works as a launch vehicle systems engineer at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. She is a team lead for Systems Integration in the Engineering Directorate, where her team does integration work for various NASA projects including the Space Launch System and Mars Ascent Vehicle. Victoria was born Deaf and often speaks to students about her experience working in the aerospace industry.

“Working with the crew behind the scenes for AstroAccess has been a wonderful experience,” said Garcia. Their mission reminds me so much of NASA’s human factors work to remove barriers in space by making sure all individuals can work with technology seamlessly.”  

NASA is proud to extend its congratulations to Victoria, Dr. Horton and Denna for lending their talents to this important project.